Ashlyn Baker hopped into the car two years ago on her way to a White Castle USA Luge Slider Search event in Minneapolis having never really thought about the sport of luge.

She figured she was getting into a headfirst ride. The Victoria native later discovered she was thinking of skeleton — luge is a feet-first sport.

It was easy then. Two years later, Baker, 14, is a member of the USA Luge Junior Developmental Team. She was first discovered at the 2017 slider search and is now training to someday be an Olympian — not so easy.

Baker, who went to Minnetonka Middle School West and is enrolled for Minnetonka High School for the fall, remembers that first day at the search.

"I get in the car and I can't believe my parents are going to let me go down this track headfirst. Once I found out it was feet first, I thought, I got this," she said. "A lot of the people that get called back have natural ability, but the coaches are looking for coachability and how hard an athlete is willing to work."

An Olympic sport since 1964, luge consists of sliding down a track of ice on sleds at speeds approaching 90 mph. The White Castle USA Luge Slider Search, in town for a circuit stop June 15-16, had participating kids participating at much slower, introductory speeds on wheeled sleds.

Two more events are scheduled for June 22-23 in Chicago and at Appleton, Wisconsin, June 29-30.

More than 250,000 youngsters have been introduced to luge in the program since its inception over 30 years ago. Baker said after the search she was invited to Lake Placid, New York, for a screening camp with around 100 girls; less than a dozen made the final team. 

Some months later around Christmas, Baker was on the icy surface at Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

She found the ice surface to be "super relaxed and super smooth." Baker said she was able to steer a lot easier, something she did not expect.

Just being in Lake Placid with the history of the town was a moment not lost on her.

"We found a bunch of luge Olympians and other Olympians there, and it was such a cool moment to see such great inspirations," she said.

Baker likes to try new sports. She has played basketball, ran track, competed in rowing and plans to go out for cross country. She also played the viola.

Luge, though, brings out her true self. Oftentimes, while hiking with her mother, if there's an adventure to it, they'll make it happen.

"I've always liked speed, and I've always been adventurous. There's so much adrenaline that goes into the sport," Baker said.

After spending a year on the development team — one week training in the summer, six weeks in the winter — Baker has moved up to the nine-member C team.

That means three trips to Lake Placid this summer, including this week, along with 10-to-12 weeks of training in the winter. Talk about a crazy schedule for a freshman in high school.

That's why Baker plans to spend her time at home in Victoria this summer being a 14-year-old.

"My family loves to go camping, so we'll have that. I love bouncing on trampolines, so we have a membership for that. I'm planning to go to Valleyfair with my aunt and, of course, practice lacrosse with my sister," Baker said.

Adventure, yes, but maybe not the 90-mph-down-an-icy-track kind.


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